This paper treats polysemy as the driving force of ancient Chinese rhetoric, inherent in the language and its system of writing, not just as an embellishment but as the very basis of discourse, and intrinsic to the multiple meanings expressed by the text; in this way, texts may represent a woridview that is radically different from the Western one and that is encoded syntactically, semantically, rhetorically, and visually (in the case of the Chinese written character) in the language. This challenges the comprehension of ancient Chinese texts by translators and their reproduction in languages that share neither the woridview nor the multiple codes involved. From the no-man’s land on the common borders of linguistics, philosophy and sinology, the translator may glimpse the horizon of understanding within which the original operates, while knowing that the readership of a translation is looking at a different horizon. Better understanding of this fact by the translator should contribute to a better interpretation of the multiple meanings contained in the original and to a translation that maintains as many meanings as possible. © 1996 St Jerome Publishing, Manchester.